Producer Stephen Krantz put the whole thing together and the first episode played to Canadian crowds in 1967. Employing the semi-talents at Grantray-Lawrence Animation , syndication followed shortly after in 1970 on American PBS stations and soon found a large audience. Max has since graced many nations with his egotistical evaluation of the flow of events. 104 episodes, comprised of 5 minute vignettes, each quickie followed the recollections of Max the Mouse and his wide berth of experiences having trotted the earth for 2000 years. Each episode would quickly run down some historical event focusing on the drama of history. Many deal with American historical characters such as Daniel Boone and the expedition of Lewis and Clarke, but be it Max has been quite an active rodent, the show does explore various historical events from ancient Rome right on up. While the facts of the historical events may have been boiled down, the show gives a brief outline of what one would hear in a history lecture or find in an encyclopedia.
The limited animation technique was the pinnacle of cheapskate. The only real frame by frame movement was the snippets of Max goofing off. The point of the episodes was not to enthrall with movement and morphing, it was to give a quick history lesson, and each tale does just that in a non-pretentious way. The bulk of the program contained Johnny Craig-esqe drawings that put faces and scenarios to the narration. The images contained no animation to speak of. Some pans, a tilt...maybe a shake here and there of the camera. Actually, calling this program a cartoon is kind of dishonest. It is more akin to a picture history book with sound. In this way the show was made for peanuts. Truly, budget film making that should inspire any broke-as-hell film student. While Max (voiced by Paul Soles...yup... the voice of 60's Spider-Man, Professor Kitzel and many more 70's characters) would throw in his two-bits, the main story teller was the powerfully voiced Bernard Cowan. Cowan was a Torontonian who provided speech to a variety of programs; most notably the narration of some episodes of the (in) famous 60's Spider-Man and Rocket Robin Hood (both also produced by Steve Krantz). The team that Krantz surrounded himself with was fully capable and experienced in achieving what the show set out to do: Give a quick run-down of history, on a budget and within a short amount of time.
The ultra-creative talented Krantz built his career making programs on the cheap and he had a bizarre involvement with Ralph Bakshi that produced not only the filthy Fritz the Cat, but the most tripped out Spider-Man episodes ever. You know the ones....when Spidey would take the trips underground only to be exposed to psychedelic backgrounds, plant freaks and complete weirdness that only Bakshi could come up with. Acid trips for kids that hadn't heard or been exposed to the drug. Krantz went on to produce some live-action shows and write a couple of novels that did quite well. Krantz really is an inspiration, if not for his output, then for his cheese factor. This man was able to pull off some of the flimsiest and dirt-poor programs ever that have really stood the test of time. Without a doubt, Rocket Robin Hood will always make sporadic appearances in the years to come. If not in sight, definitely in name just as the Krantz Spider-Man theme song will eternally live on. Max fits in to the times as well. A need for educational programming gave the show a venue, and despite its lack of flash, it maintained throughout the seventies. Alas, Max had to turn in his cap and retire his syndicated tromp in 1992, but not before imbedding his slant of history into the minds of many children.
The show has explored many roles on television. Firstly as a standalone program, then as filler after a 25 minute episode of something else. The show has even eked out a living as a bridge throughout Saturday morning programming. Max has seemingly gone into hibernation in our fast paced world of info overload, but he floats around various sites such as You Tube and the Big Cartoon Database,waiting to be rediscovered and embraced by those that can appreciate the historical kitsch that Max is privy to.
Joystick 'n' Hand